Free Textbooks for College?

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

Another school year is about to start, and students are scrambling to keep their debt load low and their college experience as positive and marketable as possible. With plenty of textbooks costing $200, $300, and more, the extra $1,000 or so for books is a formidable burden to many.

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Good news comes in many flavors, and textbooks for less is one example. A very quick search turned up four sources for textbooks that are either free or very inexpensive.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The future of each is uncertain, but now is the time to take advantage of great opportunities. Ideally, you should have a free online version of the textbook assigned by your professor. I am a former professor and know that professors often do not spend lots of time making textbook decisions and frequently don’t bother to check the cost to the students. Sometimes, your book was written by your professor and so adds to his or her bank account every time one is sold.

My field is chemistry. So, I naturally checked out the chemistry titles from the above providers. College Open Textbooks has 45 chemistry titles, all for free. The problem you’ll encounter is that none may match your instructor’s choice. Go see your instructor a year before the course if you’d like to influence the choices.  Continue reading